Between Bhutto and the Border
Since its initial birthing pains, gaining independence through a brutal war with India, Pakistan has faced innumerable challenges: four coups in its 60 years of independence, rampant corruption and waves of economic and political unrest. But the last two years have been tumultuous even by Pakistan's standards.
Once described by President Eisenhower as ‘the most allied of US allies,’ today Pakistan is a state ridden with conflict. The country has a substantial arsenal of nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s wide, largely ungoverned tribal areas have become an untouchable base for Islamic militants to attack Americans and Afghans across the border. Inside the tribal areas, Taliban warlords have taken near-total control, pushing aside the Pakistani government and imposing their own brutal form of Islam.
There have been changes. It’s fledgling civilian government, the first since 1999, is being led by Asif Ali Zardari, who was elected based on a tide of emotions that swept the country after his famously popular wife, Benazir Bhutto, was killed by a bomb at a campaign rally. And then there is the Obama administration’s new policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan that plans to hurl a lifeline towards Zardari.
Without doubt difficult security calculations remain. But from the peddler in Karachi to Washington’s elite there remains a common interest: to avoid a failed Pakistani state.